New Lands

A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book

Edited and Annotated by Mr. X





THAT through lenses rimmed with horizons, inhabitants of this earth have seen revelations of other worlds — that atmospheric strata of different densities are lenses — but that the faults of the wide glasses in the observatories are so intensified in atmospheric revelations that all our data are distortions. Our acceptance is that every mirage has a primary; that in human mind all poetry is based upon observation, and that imagery in the sky is similarly uncreative. If a mirage can not be traced to the known upon this earth, one supposes that it is either a derivation from the unknown upon this earth, or from the unknown somewhere else. We shall have data of a series of mirages in Sweden, or upon the shores of the Baltic, from Oct., 1881, to Dec., 1888. I take most of the data from Nature, Knowledge, Cosmos, and L'Astronomie, published in this period.(1) I have no data of such appearances in this region either before or after this period: the suggestion in my own mind is that they were not mirages from terrestrial primaries, or they would not be so confined to one period, but were shadows or mirages from something that was in temporary suspension over the Baltic and Sweden, all details distorted and reported in terms of familiar terrestrial appearances.

Oct. 10, 1881 — that at Rugenwalde, Pomerania, the mirage of a village had been seen: snow-covered roofs from which hung icicles; human forms distinctly visible. It was believed that the mirage was a representation of the town of Nexo, on the island of Bornholm. Rugenwalde is on the Baltic, and Nexo is about 100 miles northwest, in the Baltic.(2)

The first definite account of the mirages of Sweden, findable by me, is published in Nature, June 29, 1882, where it is said that preceding instances had attracted attention — that, in May, 1882, over Lake Orsa, Sweden, representations of steamships had been seen, and then "islands covered with vegetation."(3) Night of [150/151] May 19, 1883 — beams of light at Lake Ludyika, Sweden — they looked like a representation of a lake in moonshine, with shores covered with trees, showing faint outlines of farms (Monthly Weather Review, May, 1883).(4) May 28, 1883 — at Finsbo, Sweden — changing scenes, at short intervals: mountains, lakes, and farms.(5) Oct. 16, 1884 — Lindsberg — a large town, with four-storied houses, a castle and a lake.(6) May 22, 1885 — Gothland — a town surrounded by high mountains, a large vessel in front of the town.(7) June 15, 1885 — near Oxelosund — two wooded islands, a construction upon one of them, and two warships.(8) It is said that at the time two Swedish warships were at sea, but were at considerable distance north of Oxelosund. Sept. 12, 1885 — Valla — a representation that is said to have been a "remarkable mirage" but that is described as if the appearances were cloud-forms — several monitors, one changing into a spouting whale, and the other into a crocodile — then forests — dancers — a wooded island with buildings and a park.(9) Sept. 29, 1885 — again at Valla — between 8 and 9 o'clock, P.M.; a lurid glare upon the northwestern horizon; a cloud bank — animals, groups of dancers, a forest, and then a park with paths.(10) July 15, 1888 — Hudikwall — a tempestuous sea, and a vessel upon it; a small boat leaving the vessel.(11) Upon Oct. 8, 1888, at Merexull, on the Baltic, but in Russia, was seen a mirage of a city that lasted an hour. It is said that some buildings were recognized, and that the representation was identified with St. Petersburg, which is about 200 miles from the Baltic.(12)

*  *  *

That a large, substantial mass, presumably of land, can be in at least temporary suspension over a point upon this earth's surface, and not fall, and be, in ordinary circumstances, invisible —

In L'Astronomie, 1887-426, MM. Codde and Payan, both of them astronomers, well-known for their conventional observations and writings, publish accounts of an unknown body that appeared upon the sun's limb, for twenty or thirty seconds, after the eclipse of August 19, 1887.(13) They saw a round body, apparent diameter about one tenth of the apparent diameter of the sun, according to the sketch that is published. In L'Astronomie, these two observers write separately, and, in the city of Marseilles, their [151/152] observations were made at a distance apart. But the unknown body was seen by both upon the same part of the sun's limb. So it is supposed that it could not have been a balloon, nor a circular cloud, nor anything else very near this earth. But many astronomers in other parts of Europe were watching this eclipse, and it seems acceptable that others, besides two in Marseilles, continued to look, immediately after the eclipse; but from nowhere else came a report upon this object, so that all indications are that it was far from the sun and near Marseilles, but farther than clouds or balloons in this local sky. I can draw no diagram that can satisfy all these circumstances, except by supposing the sun to be only a few thousand miles away.

*  *  *

If little black stones fall four times, in eleven years, to one part of this earth's surface, and fall nowhere else, we are, in conceiving of a fixed origin somewhere above a stationary earth, at least conceiving in terms of data, and, whether we are fanatics or not, we are not of the type of other upholders of stationariness of this earth, who care more for Moses than they do for data. I'd not like to have it thought that we are not great admirers of Moses, sometimes.

The rock that hung in the sky of Servia —

Upon October 13, 1872, a stone fell from the sky, to this earth, near the town of Soko-Banja, Servia. If it were not a peculiar stone, there is no force to this datum. It is said that it was unknown stone. A name was invented for it. The stone was called banjite, after the town near which it fell.

Seventeen years later (Dec. 1, 1889) another rock of banjite fell in Servia, near Jelica.

For Meunier's account of these stones, see L'Astronomie, 1890-272, and Comptes Rendus, 92-331.(14) Also, see La Nature, 1881-1-192.(15) According to Meunier these stones did fall from the sky; indigenous to this earth there are no such stones; nowhere else have such stones fallen from the sky; they are identical in material; they fell seventeen years apart.(16)

*  *  *

At times when we think favorably of this work of ours, we see in it a pointing-out of an evil of modern specialization. A seis- [152/153] mologist studies earthquakes, and an astronomer studies meteors; neither studies both earthquakes and meteors, and consequently each, ignorant of the data collected by the other, sees no relation between the two phenomena. The treatment of the event in Servia, Dec. 1, 1889, is an instance of conventional scientific attempts to understand something by separately, or specially, focussing upon different aspects, and not combining into an inclusive concept. Meunier writes only upon the stones that fell from the sky, and does not mention an earthquake at the time. Milne, in his Catalogue of Destructive Earthquakes, lists the occurrence as an earthquake, and does not mention stones that fell from the sky.(17) All combinations greatly affect the character of components: in our combination of two aspects, we see that the phenomenon was not an earthquake, as earthquakes are commonly understood, though it may have been meteoric; but was not meteoric, in ordinary terms of meteors, because of the unlikelihood that meteors, identical in material, should, seventeen years apart, fall upon the same part of this earth's surface, and nowhere else.

This occurrence was of course an explosion in the sky, and its vibrations were communicated to the earth below, with all the effects of any other kind of earthquake. Back in our earliest confusion of the data of a century's first quarter, we had awareness of this combination and its conventional misinterpretation: that many concussions that have been communicated from explosions in the sky have been cataloged in lists of subterranean earthquakes. We are farther along now, in our data of the 19th century, and now we come across awareness, in other minds, of this distinguishment. At 8.20 A.M., Nov. 20, 1887, was heard and felt something that was reported from many places in the region that is known to us as the London Triangle, as an earthquake, though in some towns it was thought to be a great explosion, perhaps in London, had occurred. It was reported from Reading, and from places where the concussion was greatest. There were several accounts of slight alarm among sheep, which are sensitive to meteors and earthquakes. But, in Symons' Met. Mag., Mr. H.G. Fordham wrote that the occurrence was not an earthquake, that a meteor had exploded.(18) He had very little to base [153/154] this opinion upon: out of scores of descriptions, he had record of only two assertions that something had been seen in the sky. Nevertheless, because the sound was so much greater than the concussion, Mr. Fordham came to his conclusion.

In Symons' Met. Mag., 23-154, Dr. R.H. Wake writes that, upon the evening of Nov. 3, 1888, in a region about four miles wide and ten or fifteen miles long, in the Thames Valley (near Reading) flocks of sheep had rushed from their folds in a common alarm.(19) About a year later, in the Chiltern Hills, which extend in a northeasterly direction from the Thames Valley, near Reading, there was another such occurrence. In the London Standard, Nov. 7, 1889, the Rev. J. Ross Barker, of Chesham, a town about 25 miles northeast of Reading, writes that, upon Oct. 25, 1889, many flocks of sheep, in a region of 30 square miles, had, by common impulse, broken from their folds.(20) Mr. Barker asks whether anyone knew of a meteor or of an earthquake at the time.(21) In vol. 24, Symons' Met. Mag., Mr. Symons accepts that all three of these occurrences were effects of meteoric explosions in the sky.(22) The phenomena are insignificant relatively to some that we have considered: the significance is in this definite recognition in orthodoxy, itself, that some supposed earthquakes, or effects of supposed earthquakes, are reactions to explosions in the sky.


1. "Mirages?" Cosmos: Les Mondes, s. 4, "N.S." 11 (October 27, 1888): 336-8. "Remarkable mirages are frequently observed in the central and central parts of Sweden...." Knowledge, 2 (September 1, 1882): 223. "Notes." Nature, 32 (July 23, 1885): 278-80, at 279. A mirage of palaces and gigantic trees was observed on Lake Wettern, Sweden, on July 10, 1885. "Notes." Nature, 34 (June 3, 1886): 107-10, at 108. The Oviks Mountains were reflected on clouds at Östersund, Sweden, on April 28, 1886.

2. "Mirage curieux." Cosmos: Les Mondes, 56 (December 1, 1881): 494.

3. "Notes." Nature, 26 (June 29, 1882): 207-10, at 209-10. Correct quote: "...islands in the lake, covered with more or less with vegetation...."

4. "The following report is taken from Nature." Monthly Weather Review, 11 (May 1883): 121. The source of this article was: "Notes." Nature, 28 (June 7, 1883): 133-135, at 134. The mirage was observed at Ludvika, Sweden, (not Lake Ludyika).

5. "Notes." Nature, 28 (June 14, 1883): 155-8, at 158.

6. "Notes." Nature, 31 (November 13, 1884): 40-2, at 42. The mirage was observed at Lindesberg, Sweden, (not Lindsberg).

7. "Notes." Nature, 32 (June 4, 1885): 109-12, at 112. The mirage, which included a three-masted ship, was observed at Visby, on Gothland, Sweden.

8. "Notes." Nature, 32 (July 9, 1885): 230-1, at 231. "Le mirage." Cosmos: Les Mondes, s. 4, "N.S." 1 (July 20, 1885): 677.

9. "Notes." Nature, 32 (October 1, 1885): 540-2, at 541.

10. "Notes." Nature, 32 (October 8, 1885): 551-3, at 552.

11. "Notes." Nature, 38 (July 26, 1888): 301-4, at 304. "Mirages?..." Astronomie, 7 (1888): 392-3. The location was Hudikswall, (not Hudikwall).

12. "Curieux mirage." Astronomie, 7 (1888): 432. Mereküla, Estonia, (Merexull), is about 180 kilometers west of St. Petersburg; and, St. Petersburg is located on the Baltic coast, (not 200 miles inland from it).

13. Marius Codde and A. Payan. "Échancrure observée sur le disque solaire." Astronomie, 6 (1887): 426-8.

14. Stanislas Meunier. "Uranolithe tombée à Jelica (Serbie)." Astronomie, 9 (1890) 272-3. Stanislas Meunier. "Examen lithologique et géologique de la météorite tombée le 13 octobre 1872 aux environs de Soko-Banja, en Serbie." Comptes Rendus, 92 (1881): 331-2.

15. Stanislas Meunier. "La météorite de Soko Banja." Nature (Paris), 1881, 1 (February 19): 192.

16. These meteorites are now identified as the Soko-Banja and the Jelica, (which fell in 1889).

17. J. Milne. "Catalogue of destructive earthquakes." Annual Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1911 (Appendix 1): 649-740, at 735.

18. "The meteorite of the 20th of November, 1887." Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 23, 153.

19. Richard H. Wake. "A puzzle." Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 23, 154.

20. J. Ross-Barker. "A stampede of sheep." London Standard, November 7, 1889, p. 2 c. 7.

21. "An unusually bright meteor" was reported seen at Circester, about 7:30 P.M., travelling "exactly towards the Chiltern Hills." "The stampede of sheep." London Standard, November 8, 1889, p. 3 c. 4.

22. "The doubly observed meteor of Nov. 4th, 1889. The sheep stampede of November 3rd, 1888." Symons' Meteorological Magazine, 24, (December 1889): 161-3.

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